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Our journey continues, this week two flavours from Shinshu (a place that technically doesn’t exist) and one from a place I’ve never heard of.

Shinshu Apples

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This is one of the flavours in the box I’ve unfortunately reviewed before. Last time I said;

“Real chocolate (hooray) and a really powerful apple odour from the second the packet is opened. Actually a really, really nice apple odour. So apple-ey that it  goes right past apple and settles somewhere near apple flavoured chewing gum i.e. concentrated apple smell. More apple-ey than an apple.

The taste is much less strong than the smell but still pretty strong. The apple kills all the chocolate notes stone dead. The only thing you can taste here is apple. Although the chocolate does come through in the aftertaste.

And all in all it’s pretty good. Not too sweet, nice and rich, plenty complex and definitely apple-ey. Solid.”

I also really praised the packaging particularly the picnic blanket pattern of the red and how it evoked images of wholesomeness and the outdoors. I did however criticise the naff painting of the mountains since it nowhere near captures the majesty of the Japan Alps.

So of course they decided to ruin the packaging completely by taking away the picnic blanket and just going with the mountain scene. *sigh*. This is an overcrowded mess alright, not only do we have the mandatory too large logo which covers up the bloody painting in the first place we have a red stripe down the side, a gold stripe along the bottom, pictures of apples (because nobody knows what an apple looks like) and a little stamp saying it’s made in Shinshu, which again, we know because the writing says Shinshu apples in English and Japanese.

Well if the packets have gone downhill what about the chocolate?

Oh wow, I take it back about the pear. This is the strongest smelling Kit-Kat by a country mile. That apple scent hits you like a fist. It fills the room. It’s like someone baking apple pie, except very, very artificial. Which makes the picture of an apple even more redundant, if you open this and don’t immediately realise it’s apple then I’m sorry to inform you that you appear to have lost your sense of smell.

My initial assessment is still pretty accurate; all you taste to start with is apple, then some chocolate flavour towards the end and finally an after taste of apples. I did find the after taste to be more unpleasantly chemical this time around but this is still a very nice tasting chocolate bar. Also praise be to real chocolate, it’s not waxy, it’s not soapy it’s rich and delicious and the richness helps the other flavours and adds complexity

 

Shinshu Hot Japanese Chilli Flavour

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Another example of the English lying to you guys. These may be chillies, they may be from Japan but they sure as heck ain’t hot.

I also reviewed these previously and mentioned I thought the packaging looks naff. Mostly because the drawing of the pepper looks naff, and the kanji look out of proportion to the chilli drawing. They haven’t fixed either of hose problems but they did fix the slightly naff gradient fade by just making it solid red and gold bars. So still a naff packet but marginally less so.

My review last time can be boiled down to one sentence. It tastes of dark chocolate with a very, infinitesimally small spice to the after taste.

This is a shame because I like combinations of chilli and chocolate, the heat and the richness make for a very pleasant oral experience. But maybe they’ve improved the formulation over the years, let’s see.

Once again the chocolate is very dark, indeed almost black. It smells and looks just like a rich dark chocolate and tastes just like a rich dark chocolate.

This time I can taste the chilli spice when I first bite into it but mostly I can taste the dark bitter chocolate. There is also an initial burst of sweetness that gradually moves into a really rich and bitter chocolate flavour.

And then the chilli comes through and honestly I did not give this credit before, it really does have a nice chilli kick to it. It’s spicy and refreshing. Indeed it might have too much chilli kick to it now as the after taste is pure pepper. It also kicks in much too quickly so you don’t have a huge amount of time to enjoy the nice dark chocolate.

This chocolate bar is like unto a flame, it burns brightly and strongly then disappears quickly leaving only ash. Except in that metaphor the actual chocolate is the fire, not the chilli heat. Which probably makes it a confusing metaphor. Look it’s a Kit-Kat guys, don’t expect Keats.

In summary the balance of chilli and chocolate still isn’t quite there.

Not a bad effort though.

Tokai and Hokuriku Red Bean Sandwich 

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Well this is the first time I’ve had to look up the location just to see where it is. Turns out it’s along the Sea of Japan coast in the middle of the main island and it has the highest snowfall of any arable inhabited region in the world. Thanks Wikipedia. Also it is defended by teams of giant robots. Or at least it does not because I edited it. Thanks Wikipedia.

Red Bean Paste or Azuki is probably the most common basis for sweets in Japan. Since sugar is not a native and nor are European honey bees Azuki was the traditional sweet flavouring for thousands of years. Azuki beans are similar to kidney beans in appearance and texture but are incredibly sweet, much sweeter than sweet corn or similar sweetening substances and Japan has a huge variety of traditional treats based on the beans. Dorayaki is one of them, a sandwich of dough filled with the sweet paste. They’re the favourite snack of this guy.

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This is Doraemon and if you don’t know the name chances are you’ve still seen him before if you have any interest in Japanese culture. He’s a robot cat from the future. And yes, I know, he doesn’t look anything like a cat or a robot, I’ve had this argument with Japanese people and it just gets surreal.

“But he doesn’t have cat ears?”

“Oh a mouse chewed them off”

“And he’s blue?”

“Yes, he cried himself that colour when he lost his ears”

If it wasn’t for the internet (thanks Wikipedia) I’d assume they were just fucking with me but apparently he is a robot cat, with a pouch he can pull items from, because cat’s have pouches now apparently.

Anyway, Dorayaki, it’s sweet, it’s cakey, robot future cats love it. How is the Kit-Kat?

Well the wrapper is…better than the others I’ve looked at today. Firstly I like the colour balance better, maroon and yellow isn’t a common colour combo but yellow and purple is and any artist can tell you yellow and purple pop against each other, hence so does this wrapper. However the shades chosen are slightly subdued and so whilst this does pop it also has an air of sophistication, even an old fashioned air. Also rather than having equal colours at the side and a big chunk in the middle the Dorayaki is actually slightly off centre and to the right. It’s a small touch but it’s a lot more visually appealing than the dead centre symmetrical designs of the other wrappers.

Praise be to Allah, milk chocolate! Maybe we’ll have a good one.

The problem with making something Azuki flavour is the main flavour of Azuki is sweet, unbelievably sweet. There is a certain bean quality to it (think kidney beans) but mostly it’s more of an ingredient than a flavour. This Kit-Kat is really strongly flavoured but I wouldn’t have recognised it as Azuki. It mostly tastes of burnt toast.

And yet there is an Azuki aspect there. Mostly in the aftertaste. Actually the aftertaste is an astonishing recreation of the after taste of Azuki, complete with the slightly dried out mouth you get when you eat it. I can almost feel the slightly hard skins that get left in your mouth when you eat an Azuki or a kidney bean.one’s mouth.

I do like this, I like it a lot actually but it’s hard to say why. It’s really sweet, the main flavour is burnt and the aftertaste is not nice at all. It must have something to do with the taste that hits you after the burnt and before the finish. For a split second there’s a nice balance of nuttiness, sweetness and a richness I can only describe as like a kidney bean. It’s kind of worth eating just for that moment, but then the aftertaste kicks in and ruins everything. Although it is a very exact recreation of what an Azuki aftertaste is it has the problem that the aftertaste of Azuki is crappy. Fortunately tea or coffee teams nicely with it, especially a strong unsweetened coffee as this flavour is plenty sweet, believe me.

Hello Kit-Kat fans and welcome back to the ultimate box of Kit-Kats. Last time we discussed the box itself, this time we’re going to dig into some of the Kit-Kats it contains.

Niigata Pear

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So apparently we can’t spring for English on the box but we’re now putting French on the wrappers. Maybe every wrapper will have a different language on it to signify the country it’s aimed at. As if to say “French people, we think you’ll like the pear flavour, it compliments wine, cheese and surrendering to Nazi Germany.”

But more than likely it’s because Japanese people think putting stuff in French makes it fancy and elegant. This is something they do with terrific frequency. I’d mock that but my country does exactly the same thing and we hate France so that’s us effectively openly acknowledging that France just is classier than the U.K. Which, to be honest, it is.

Le Lectier is the name of the variety of pear and although originally from France it is grown in Niigata and is considered a local speciality there. It’s a white pear with a very smooth texture and is very strongly fragranced. Or so the internet tells me, I’m not a pear connoisseur and if you probed me my ability to blag that I am would crumple swiftly.

Packaging wise I love that this Kit-Kat. It’s simplified, a simple cream background, a contrasting black stripe and an image of a pear. It’s more reassured and more elegant than the busy clutter of most designs.

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Smell wise this reeks of pears straight away, indeed it might be one of the most strongly scented Kit-Kats I’ve come across, appropriate for a pear that is supposed to be so strongly scented and aromatic.

Flavour wise it’s pretty assured too; the pear is a strong initial note on the palate and persists through right until the after taste which is almost sour with pear flavour. But there is a depth to the flavour too. One gets a sweet burst (with pear) to start, a kind of creamy taste and texture in the middle (with pear) and finally a sour pear aftertaste (with pear) to finish (with pear, did I mention this is really strongly flavoured of pear?).

The only problem is our old friend, waxy coloured chocolate, makes a return so whilst the flavour is lovely the texture is pretty foul.

The waxiness also means that it coats the roof of your mouth with the slightly sour aftertaste and that can be a touch unpleasant. No worries with that though, wash this down with some green tea and it pairs really nicely. This is a delicious flavour, easily one of Nestlé’s better efforts.

Tokyo Brown Sugar Syrup

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Since I learned my lesson from Tohoku that the English lies I assumed that there was more to this than just brown sugar syrup and did some research on the Japanese name Kuromitsu and it turns out… to be entirely accurate.

Kuromitsu is not really a Tokyo thing so I’m not entirely sure why this is the specialty picked for Tokyo so much as it is an old fashioned and traditional method of sweetening all manner of old fashioned Japanese sweets and desserts. Basically it’s molasses but thinner. If anything it should be an Okinawan specialty since that’s where sugar cane grows in Japan. I guess they’ve given it to Tokyo because of the old fashioned connotations and Tokyo, despite its reputation as a modern metropolis, is a historical city with lots of old fashioned crafts still practised there. This is something you’ll probably comment on if you visit Japan, the mix of the modern and the historical in close proximity. If you ask me that, above anything else, really informs and defines Japan and the Japanese character.

The wrapper is appalling. For once I actually don’t mind the logo since it blends into the main body of the wrapper and the main body has a nice gradient colour to it that really gives it some class and an old fashioned feel. We get a picture of the inviting looking brown sugar syrup and the blue strip is cleverly incorporated into the design. It looks like the flags Japanese businesses used to use to advertise their shops in the past and which you’ll still see on any shop trying to evoke a nostalgic theme.

Then it spoils all of this nostalgia and the air of history and tradition by covering the other side with random coloured squares. That doesn’t say traditional Japanese culture to me, it says Rubik’s cube.

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The smell is actually fairly unpleasant. I’ve never smelled Kuromitsu so I couldn’t tell you how accurate to real life it is but it certainly does smell sweet and I can imagine this being similar to a brown sugar. There’s something else here though, almost a rancid odour, like when meat smells sweet but you know that it means it’s bad. It’s not something chocolate should smell of, or indeed meat.

Taste wise it’s very similar to brown sugar or molasses, very sweet but actually sweet in a way that is different to refined sugars, it has a flavour and a complexity to it. There are burnt flavours, nutty flavours, caramel flavours; it’s a surprisingly complex taste.

The way I usually write these reviews is to eat part of a finger, write my thoughts and eat it some more as I type so I keep the flavour in mind whilst writing. With this Kit-Kat my initial reaction was that it was very unpleasant, I couldn’t have told you what exactly I disliked about it thought but mixed in with the sweetness and the nuttiness was another note that was intensely unpalatable. However, the more I eat this, the more I like it and I can no longer place that unpleasant note at all. In fact this is really, really nice. I’d most compare it to sweet potato, which is one of my all-time favourites, and it shares the same flavour profile of sweet potato; sweet caramel notes with something earthy underneath it all. It even avoids the problem of waxy coloured chocolate.

The aftertaste is a bit sour but this works really well with tea or coffee actually which should clear the aftertaste up considerably.

Kyushu Amaou strawberry

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Kyushu is the third largest of the main islands and it is awesome. It might possibly be my favourite part of Japan. I only visited there once but I had such an amazing time, the people seemed so much friendlier than in Tokyo or Kyoto, the countryside was gorgeous, the weather was gorgeous (if too hot) and the food was phenomenal. It was all the things I liked about Japan just more so.

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I did not know it was famous for strawberries but apparently Amaou strawberries (literally big sweet strawberries) are something of a delicacy there, particularly near the city of Fukuoka. Apparently these strawberries are of such high quality they can fetch a dollar each easily.

This is another quirk of Japan, stupidly expensive fruit. See this watermelon?

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This watermelon sold for $6,100 dollars. Well maybe not this exact example but certainly something very similar. Now that’s an extreme example but cantaloupe melons routinely retail at prices around $30 , I bought one in the supermarket today for about $2. I’ve never entirely grasped the reasons for this but it has something to do with how Asian counties use fruit as a gift instead of things like chocolates and wine.

The packet is great. Rather than have a picture of one strawberry they turned the entire background into strawberries which when you have a product with such a dominant colour as red makes perfect sense. This is really eye catching without being overly busy. Frankly the apple and green tea favours in the same box should have done the same thing. It also helps stop the image from being too crowded since you don’t have so many clashing colours.

Disappointingly we don’t have real chocolate but white chocolate. However there is no doubting this will taste of strawberries since the smell is overpowering. Actually it smells less like a strawberry than it does a strawberry milkshake, specifically a burger king strawberry milkshake.

I may have mentioned this before but I have boycotted Burger King and McDonalds for life due to their business practises that I have no desire to support. This is pretty easy for me since I’m not a huge fan of their food. I am however in love with their strawberry milkshakes, they don’t taste quite like strawberries and they have a texture milkshakes should not have (I know they use potato as a thickener and that’s what probably does it) but there’s something just divine about them. The smell of this Kit-Kat is giving me a serious nostalgia trip and wearing down my resistance. If I don’t finish this review quickly I may have to get myself to a McD’s ASAP.

The flavour is the total opposite though. Rather than being that familiar artificial strawberry flavour (you know the one, all strawberry sweets taste of it.) it is remarkably like a real strawberry. It even has the tartness that usually gets washed out in strawberry sweets. This is delightful. It’s sweet to the taste, tastes and smells very evocatively of strawberries but has a tartness that cuts the sweetness and makes it perfectly balanced. It’s slightly soapy but again that tartness cuts that down and makes it palatable. It also has a lovely creamy finish which pairs so well with strawberries. It even has a nice aftertaste, not too chemically or creamy and still redolent of fruit.

I can’t tell you if this tastes like an Amaou strawberry but it is leagues better than any strawberry flavour Kit-Kat has done before.

Ladies and Gentlemen feast your eyes upon this.

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Although I usually write about the seasonal specialty Kit-Kats on this blog there is another major variety of special Kit-Kats; area based flavours. These are Kit-Kat flavours that can only be bought from one specific place in Japan. Usually these come in a very nice presentation box and take the form of the two fingered Kit-Kat mini. What they’re perfect for is Omiyage. Omiyage is a Japanese practice wherein when one goes on holiday one has to bring back presents from that vacation for all your co-workers as a kind of apology for having been away and left them to do all the hard work. Since you have to get Omiyage for everyone in your office these usually need to be small individually wrapped presents, usually cakes or biscuits, which you can just leave on their desk.

Omiyage usually has something do with the specialty food of the region as well, which is another big Japanese cultural idea, food tourism. Japanese people strongly associate certain foods with certain areas in Japan. Hokkaido is famous for lamb, potatoes, butter and corn, Hiroshima with fresh seafood and a kind of okonomiyaki called Hiroshimayaki, Kobe, where I lived is famous for beef, Awaji which is nearby, is famous for onions, and so on and so forth. Japanese people think nothing of going to these places specifically to eat these foods, indeed there are special tours set up to do nothing but take busloads of gourmet tourists to some special area of Japan to eat the local delicacy and drive back again. In fact I’d go as far as to say that if you went someplace like Kinosaki and didn’t eat crab there Japanese people would stare at you like you’d been to Pisa and not seen the leaning tower. To them eating the local delicacy is the main reason for the trip in the first place.

Japanese culture is really focused on food guys; you’ll notice it fairly quickly if you ever visit.

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As part of its on-going effort to become the most successful western import since baseball, trains and beer Kit-Kat is firmly placed to exploit the intersection between Omiyage, food tourism and laziness. Go to Niigata, what’s that famous for, pears? Well you can hardly bring back 40 odd pears on the bus. Ah but you can bring back pear flavoured Kit-Kats for your colleagues. And thus a whole new thing to collect was born, the area specific Kit-Kat.

Indeed I’ve written about such things before on this site. We’ve had strawberry cheesecake and wasabi  and we’ve also had hot red pepper and apples.

Also I notice one of those posts is entitled Kit-Kats the Final Chapter. Oh how little you knew 2010 Mummyboon, how little you knew.

Enter a new player into the game though, people like me, aka sad lonely people with little going on in their lives who like to collect Kit-Kat flavours. I will grab every variety I see and stopped just short of planning journeys to places to get new Kit-Kat varieties (in that I never travelled to a city especially to get a flavour, I have been to special train stations and places within cities I know you need to go to get a flavour. I’m sad, not insane.)

Alas I thought I would never get all the regional varieties, I certainly would never have cause to travel to someplace like Niigata or Tohoku if I returned to Japan. Thus I felt I would never sample all the regional specialty Kit-Kats a nagging, gnawing thought that would keep me up at night and haunt me in my darkest hours. The dark break time of the soul if you will.

But…

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Just for people like me Nestle came out with one single box containing all of them, all 15 regional specialties!

Finding out about this was one of the happiest and most depressing moments of my life. Happy because I was overjoyed that such a beauteous thing could exist in this world, depressing because I  knew I would never be free of my debilitating addiction to buying new Kit-Kats.

It’s a mental illness people, does nobody realise this blog is just an elaborate cry for help!?

Do you know how much this cost me to buy? £50.00, that’s about $75.00. When I showed this to my fiancee I pleaded with her to stop me buying it. The conversation went something like this.

“Sweetheart have you seen this?!”

“Oh wow, that’s awesome, are you going to buy it?”

“It’s £50.00.”

“Really?! That’s a lot of money.”

“I know but I kind of have to buy it don’t I? I mean I can blog about it and Kit-Kats are kind of my thing.”

“But £50.00?”

“But I have to right?”

“You do what you think is best darling.”

So I bought them, posted the fact that I had bought them on a popular social networking site and heard this from the other room.

“You actually bought them!”

She was clearly less than pleased with my monetary expenditure on 30 bars of chocolate. Evidently giving me choices and free will is some kind of test to determine if I will make the correct choices.

Which I did not. I suspect some of my ability to choose things will be curtailed in the future.

But she didn’t realise that I have no free will where Kit-Kats are concerned. I am a slave to my compulsions and she needed to stop me by telling me no, I was not allowed to spend money on chocolate bars from Japan.

This relationship needs a lot less mutual trust and a lot more her telling me what to do.

So I bought it, and it arrived, and I jumped up and down and ran round the house like a 5 year old on amphetamines because it is glorious.

There’s so much to talk about here I can’t do it justice in a single blog post so I’m going to start today by describing the overall display box it comes in and then dealing with the individual flavours one by one as quickly as I’m able. Daily, if all goes to plan.

So let’s look at the box, and what a box it is.

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The outer cover is gloriously monochromatic, red and white. The colours of Kit-Kat, the colours of the Japanese flag, the colours of glory!  We have a nice big Kit-Kat logo but surprisingly most of the box is more concerned with selling this as a Japanese thing. We have Mt Fuji, sakura blossoms, maple leaves and patterns similar to origami paper. The only stereotypical Japanese things we’re missing are samurai, robots and tentacle porn. I guess that’s because the real target market for this is people visiting Japan or living outside of Japan and they’re selling this as a souvenir for the whole country.

Except in that case why is almost all the text in Japanese? Are translators really that expensive? Does the Japanese hide numerous jokes about the pathetic weirdos willing to shell out for such a product? Sadly my own Japanese skills don’t extend that far and when I tried to make my live in translator (see fiancee above) she just smirked, looked at me funny and walked away laughing. I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that.

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The actual lay out is a bit of a kludge, the logo in the top left and Fuji in the bottom right make sense but we have a weirdly bare part in the middle right and a weirdly busy layout in the top left. Also we have a box explaining where the Kit-Kats are hiding, because apparently Nestle thinks most people can’t figure out what perforations might mean. Thanks Nestle, I sure can’t guess that I’m supposed to open them up to get my chocolate. If you hadn’t explained I would have just stared at the box in mute fury that there clearly aren’t any Kit-Kats in it.

Although thinking on maybe people prepared to pay £50.00 for 30 chocolate bars can be assumed to be quite stupid.

The real magic happens though when you open the box and unveil these contents.

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Again everything here is selling an image of Japan first and foremost with the Kit-Kat brand really subservient to the idea of Japan as a brand and of Kit-Kat’s being a Japanese thing (which they’re not, they’re British). The only big Kit-Kat thing we get is another logo and even that is tucked out of the way, instead all the elements here are intended to evoke a certain Japanese feel. I mean it’s a map of Japan guys; it’s hardly going to evoke Bud Leigh Salterton.

But that map has loads of little symbols and other Japanese iconography, we get the famous bear from Hokkaido catching a fish, two dudes sharing a bath together, Mt Fuji, Shisa dogs from Kyushu, lots and lots of Japanese things and…

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wait…

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Is that a camel? In Japan? Are, are camels a Japanese thing?

To the internet…

Sooooo according to this guy  and a few others camels are not native to Japan but there is a small desert area in Japan called Tottori and camels are kept there for the benefit of tourists.

So it’s a non-native animal in a tiny area known mostly for the fact that it differs from the eco-system in the rest of Japan. Hardly representative guys, maybe some tanuki would be better? Are the Nestle Japan offices located in Tottori or something? No apparently they’re in Kobe.

Wait, Kobe! Oh man! I lived there for three years, I never knew that! I could have gone on a pilgrimage and met the guy responsible for the new flavours! What a waste! Oh man now I feel depressed.

I’d better eat some chocolate to cheer me up.

Not a Kit-Kat though, I’m starting to go off them a bit.

Ha, had you fooled. No, I’m hopelessly addicted, to my eternal shame. No fear of me giving up on the Kat. As the kids call it.

No, no they don’t. The kids don’t call them that. I think I’m just rambling now.

Two last things about the packet I’d like to draw your attention to. Firstly I like the use of the golden clouds. Here they’re only meant to fill up negative space and make the packet more aesthetically pleasing but they also convey a certain sense of ancient Japan and harken back to a Japanese drawing technique I’ve always liked.

Check out this image from Christie’s for a sense

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Although that’s a small image you can see that we have lots of images surrounded by golden clouds. In a sense this is an early form of sequential art (or comics if you’re not a pretentious arty type person like myself) with the clouds serving the separate individual scenes in a story, in the image above the story is the tale of Genji. Of course modern Japanese sequential art (or Manga if you prefer) uses standard panel borders, just white lines but I’ve always liked golden clouds, they add an air of fantasy and an atmosphere of history and elegance to a piece. They’re something uniquely Japanese and they really set a tone.

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Last cool thing about the box it’s kind of like an advent calendar with several boxes, each containing two Kit-Kat minis and also with a picture in each box building up a new picture of Japan once you’ve opened every box. If your country doesn’t know what an advent calendar is they’re calendars with an image on the front and several windows, one for each day of advent or more normally these days one for every day in December. People use them to count down to Christmas. When you open the window you get a different picture of a traditionally Christmassy thing (angels, bells, snowmen, holly, etc) and usually some chocolate.

This is similar in that you open a window, get some chocolate and see another picture only without the Christmas theme.

Oh man Kit-Kat advent calendar, I need to pitch that one. Man why did I not realise the offices were in Kobe all along. So many wasted opportunities.

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So let’s try our first flavour. Let’s start at the top right and work our way down to the bottom left, Japanese reading style. So we start with Tohoku and Edamame.

Edamame is an increasingly common snack outside of Japan but not so common I don’t feel the need to show off my superior foreign cultural knowledge to you. Ha ha, I have been to a foreign land and you have not peasant, come let me explain these strange green beans to you.

Edamame are soy beans boiled and salted in their pods. They have a nice savoury taste and go very nicely with a beer, making these possibly the first Kit-Kats intended to be eaten with a beer than with tea.

I heartily endorse this approach, indeed I want beer flavoured Kit-Kats as soon as possible and on my next trip to Kobe I will be making a special visit to the offices to explain my ideas (it can have sherbet so it’s fizzy and everything).

The packet confuses me because although the English on the back of the box promises me that this is an edamame Kit-Kat the picture on the front is clearly not some edamame.

Here is some edamame

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Here is what we have a picture of

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The Japanese says zunda edamame and some goggling mostly returned references to zunda Kit-Kats but I did eventually discover that zunda is a kind of cake made from a paste of ground up edamame

So it is a cake, and thus, not intended to be eaten with beer at all.

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Before we move on can I point out how disgusting that stuff looks? I’m sure it is delicious but it looks like someone already ate it once and it didn’t agree with them. That particularly shade of baby poo green has to be one of the least appetising colours a chef can achieve. It’s almost artistic how gross that looks. Not helping, the fact that its pasty and glistening, it really helps sell the vomit comparisons in my brain.

Anyway moving on…

Also this means the English is lying to you guys either maliciously or possibly because translators are even more expensive than I thought.

Design wise the packet is basic but fine. The Kit-Kat logo is still too big and, par for the course with minis, the design is far too cluttered. I do like that the name of the flavour is shaped like a soybean, that’s a cute touch, I also like the Japanese font used which is kind of fresh feeling.

So soy bean cake flavoured Kit-Kat, how does it taste?

Like bland sweetness.

This Kit-Kat tastes of something, it doesn’t taste like white chocolate, it also doesn’t have the usual waxy or soapy taste of a coloured chocolate Kit-Kat but it emphatically does not taste of edamame and I couldn’t tell you what it does taste like. It’s not unpleasant though, it’s a nice clean flavour reminiscent of a melon almost. It also has almost no aftertaste and wipes your palate clean straight away. That makes it quite refreshing in a way which is unusual for chocolate. I’d compare it to eating sugar then drinking a glass of water, sweet without any particular flavour and then gone.

So that’s it today guys. We’re working our ways through these Kit-Kats over the next few weeks so come back next Saturday and see what bizarre flavours Nestle has ready for us.

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Big Man Japan (Dai Nihonjin) (2007)

Big Man Japan is one of the weirder films I’ve seen from Japan and anyone who’s passingly familiar with Japanese cinema knows what a statement that is. Starring, written by, directed by and produced by one man comedy auteur Hitoshi Matusmoto, Big Man Japan tells the tale of Masaru Daisato also known as Big Man Japan, the giant 30 foot tall super hero that defends Japan from invading monsters in a similar vein to Ultraman and other Kaiju films.

The twist being that everything in Masaru’s life, including his monster fighting, absolutely sucks and the people of Japan hate him and think he’s terrible at his job.

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That’s a brilliant high concept but it’s not really the film that Big Man Japan gives us, and partly that’s why the film is so odd. It’s not the subject matter, although stuff like a giant starfish/vagina monster that stinks is pretty oddball, but rather the tone. Big Man Japan is deadpan to the point that it seems sometimes to be actively taunting the audience with how unfunny it’s being.  Long sequences of the film are taken up with Masaru eating at a noodle place, driving his scooter, talking about how he likes umbrellas and doing other mundane tasks all filmed in a documentary style with minimal camera movement and subtle acting. It’s actively boring at times but it seems to be intentional because the central gag is presenting the absurd and surreal monster battles in as deadpan and ordinary a way as the mundane aspects of Masaru’s life. The long boring segments means the eventual pay off of a giant pair of purple pants seems all the funnier. Not that the documentary segments are without humour, particularly the scene with Masaru’s daughter in her bunny hat and pixelated face, but it’s a subtler humour than the giant electric nipples or enormous cat eared baby spouting poetry. Tolerance for this level of deadpan is likely to be low though so it’s certainly not a film with wide appeal.

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People have moaned about the special effects for this feature but frankly on the budget this film had, and especially considering they’re using motion capture technology I think they look great and even add to the humour since, again they mix the oddball and the deadpan. Being able to see the actor’s facial expressions is much more important than a good looking suit or smooth CGI when you’re doing this kind of subtle comedy.

One final note, the last ten minutes of this film are absolutely hysterical. Having built up the threat of this unknown red monster with Masaru running away from it and finally having to face it again at the end we’re all primed for a typical redemption story where Masaru overcomes his own incompetence and beats the big bad. I won’t spoil the ending but suffice it to say the film undercuts this expected trope in the most ludicrous and hilarious manner possible. Much as individual scenes have a slow, tedious, excruciating, agonisingly, long build up to a gag so the film as a whole is 90 minutes of deadpan and 10 minutes of utter unrestrained insanity that had me laughing like a loon.

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Big Man Japan and all images and content copyright their respective owners.

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